UCL News: Lionel Messi leads list of players who could face issues travelling to the UK if their clubs draw English sides

FC Barcelona v FC Internazionale: Group F - UEFA Champions League
FC Barcelona v FC Internazionale: Group F - UEFA Champions League
Rachel Syiemlieh

What's the story?

Lionel Messi headlines a list of football players who could face difficulties travelling to the United Kingdom if their clubs draw against an English side in the UEFA Champions League, explains an immigration lawyer to The Athletic.

In case you didn't know...

As the UK is bracing itself for the effects of the impending no-deal Brexit, football itself is preparing for the political chaos that will change the game as we knew it.

The deal comes at a time when English clubs are flourishing in Europe, with the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal having recently played the Champions League and Europa League finals respectively.

All four sides have long been metropolitan, with non-English coaches guiding players from different parts of the world.

While the probable changes in the Premier League's recruitment of players and staff have been protested by several clubs, the freedom of movement that players have so far enjoyed is also expected to see a major change as stricter immigration regulations will be applied to footballers from EU countries.

The heart of the matter

Players like Messi could face issues travelling to the UK if their clubs draw English sides in European competitions once the country leaves the EU.

Immigration lawyer Andrew Osbourne of the firm, Lewis Silkin, is currently helping several clubs to deal with the enormous impact of the deal, stating that the world's elite players, particularly those with prison sentences, could be adversely affected by the move.

Messi himself has previously been convicted for tax fraud and was handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence by courts in Spain.

He explained, as per The Mirror,

"There is a specific point around European games. If you are an EU citizen with a criminal conviction, you can travel to the UK, as long as you are not deemed to be a threat to national security.
"If you are not an EU citizen and have a conviction or prison sentence imposed β€” even if suspended β€” you are banned from coming to the UK.
"There are a number of very famous footballers with convictions and suspended sentences for tax evasion. They, thus far, have not had to worry as they have EU passports.
"But post-Brexit, they potentially may not be able to enter the country (as they will be treated like non-EU nationals). Anyone with a prison sentence of any sort, the starting point is you are not allowed in.
"This could provide disruption to Champions League squads and also whether they (UEFA) will play finals in England if players potentially may not be able to come in. Clubs will need to take steps.”

What's next?

It remains to be seen how football will cope with the impending effects of a no-deal Brexit should it happen by the end of the month.

Edited by Samya Majumdar


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